Special to the Record-Courier
Last week, ninth-year Kent State baseball head coach Scott Stricklin introduced the program's latest recruiting class.
Fresh off a College World Series appearance last summer, the Flashes' Class of 2013 features seven high school seniors and one junior-college transfer. The list of players includes two from Ohio, five from Pennsylvania and one from New York.
"We are very excited as a staff to introduce these student-athletes as Kent State Golden Flashes," Stricklin said. "We have eight newcomers and they all are going to make a positive impact on our program. Mike Birkbeck and Scott Daeley did another unbelievable job of identifying and recruiting the best baseball players from our region. We feel that we added depth on the mound with four quality arms, and we also added a lot of athleticism with this entire group.
"Our 2012 run to Omaha was certainly a factor in the recruiting process, and we feel like this could be our best recruiting class ever," he said. "We always have high expectations here at Kent State and these eight young men will be great representatives of our program."
Here is a look at the eight new Golden Flashes:
n Zach Beckner, infield, Lebanon, Ohio
"We feel that Zach is the best middle infielder in the state of Ohio," said Stricklin. "He plays the game very hard and has great baseball instincts. He is very athletic in the middle of the diamond and can play both shortstop and second base. He can hit to all fields and handles the bat very well. He is also a plus base runner with above average speed. Zach is going to make an instant impact on our team."
n Keyshawn D'Orso, outfield, Pittburgh, Pa.
"Keyshawn got on our radar a little late in the process," said Stricklin, "but once we saw him play several times, we knew he would be a great fit in our program. He is very hard-nosed and plays the game with a lot of energy. His bat speed is what stood out the most for us. He makes consistent, hard contact at the plate and can hit for some power. He is athletic and versatile enough to play all three outfield positions and we feel he will be an early contributor."
n Zac LeNeve, infield, Gibsonia, Pa.
"We recruited Zac very hard two years ago and missed out on him," said Stricklin. "We are thrilled that he has decided to attend Kent State after competing for one season at Louisburg College. He is a strong, physical baseball player that has all the tools to be a standout player at the Division-I level. He can hit for average and power, and he is also a plus runner. He has great defensive instincts in the middle of the infield with a strong throwing arm. Zac will make an immediate impact on our program."
n Eric Lauer, LHP/utility, Elyria, Ohio
"Eric is an unbelievable athlete that has a chance to be a two-way player for us here at Kent State," said Stricklin. "He is the top-rated player in the state of Ohio because of what he has shown on the mound, but he is equally good at the plate. His fastball is in the low 90s from the left side and his slider has a chance to be a consistent strikeout pitch. His arm is very loose and works very easily, and he is only going to get better. At the plate, he hits for power to all fields and he has a great approach. Eric will come in and compete for a weekend rotation spot and a spot in the lineup immediately."
n Andy Ravel, RHP, Sinking Springs, Pa.
"Andy was recommended to us by his pitching coach, Kent State Hall of Famer, Bill Underwood," said Stricklin. "Andy's arm is lightning quick and he is very projectable. He is very athletic and has a feel for four pitches. He commands his fastball to both sides of the plate and sets up hitters as well as anyone I've seen. He pitched very well on the national stage this summer in the East Coast Professional Showcase and the Area Code Games. He is extremely competitive on the mound and he will come in here next fall and compete right away for a lot of innings."
n Conner Simonetti, infield/outfield, Fairport, N.Y.
"Conner stood out to me as one of the best hitters I saw all summer," said Stricklin. "He hits for power to the opposite field and has an advanced approach at the plate. As he continues to get stronger, he will develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter for us. He has great hands and feet at first base and is as good defensively as you will find over there. He is very physically strong, but he is also a good enough athlete that he can play a corner outfield spot. We are thrilled that Conner has decided to attend Kent State.
n Jared Skolnicki, LHP/outfield, Pittsburgh, Pa.
"Jared is a very athletic left-handed pitcher that has a really good feel for pitching," said Stricklin. "He reminds us a little of David Starn because of his change-up and the way he competes. His fastball is in the mid-80s range right now, but as he gets stronger, his velocity will increase. He is also a switch-hitter at the plate and has a chance to be a good college hitter. He is an extremely hard worker and a great kid, and we are very fortunate to have him in our program."
n Zach Spangler, RHP, Cranberry Twp., Pa.
"Zach is a hard-throwing right-hander that has a lot of upside," said Stricklin. "His fastball has gotten into the low 90s and his breaking ball continues to improve. He has a great pitcher's frame, and he is going to get a lot stronger over the next four years. He works extremely hard and really competes on the mound. I know Coach Birkbeck is looking forward to working with Zach and helping him reach his full potential."